Carnaval in Salvador: The Biggest Street Party in the World

October 14, 2015
Kayla Bernardino
4 min read

You might have heard of Carnaval before. Perhaps an image comes to mind of brightly colored headdresses, bikini-clad women, and merriment all-round while rhythmic music pushes the crowd. The beautiful people may match the tropical place, but there is much more than the sexy atmosphere Carnaval has to offer. For example, take the cultural part of Carnaval in Salvador, Bahia, and learn how you can enjoy the event like one of the locals. We have one of our group trip organizers, Tania Santiago, who will bring spicy flavor and love into your travels.

Carnaval in Salvador Dance

Story written by Kayla Bernardino:

When I speak to fellow victims of the travel bug, it is not uncommon for them to describe their bucket list of destinations and activities. I have an extensive list of my own, including scuba diving the iconic Great Barrier Reef, getting certified for solo skydiving, and participating in at least one day of the “biggest street party in the world,” Carnaval.

Carnaval is the six-day carnival festival celebrated all over Brazil each winter. Nearly every city participates— you’ve probably heard about or seen photos of the huge parade in Rio. According to those I’ve spoken to though, the largest (and arguably best) one is in Salvador, with roughly 2 million people participating annually!

Meet Tania Santiago. Choreographer, dance instructor, and group trip organizer.
Meet Tania Santiago. Choreographer, dance instructor, and group trip organizer.

Tania, an esteemed dancer and dance instructor currently living in the Bay Area, has been leading dance intensives to Salvador each year for the past twelve years. When asked about her motivations, she says, “I want to show people where I came from, why I’m [dancing] here. Our dancing is not just samba. I don’t want people to just see Brazil as bikinis, as sexual things. I want to be able to show the other part, the Afro part, the spiritual part.”

A citizen of the world herself, Tania once “traveled like crazy” during her six-year stint with the company Olodum, a Brazilian non-profit that works with the community. She never stayed home, dancing in many countries, including Switzerland, Japan, Norway, and Germany. She now enjoys serving as a cultural ambassador, traveling between her two homes of the Bay Area and Salvador, where she grew up.

Carnaval in Salvador Dance

With her upcoming group trip set for January 29 – February 10, 2016, there’s still time to get in on the action. Tania holds dance classes immediately upon arrival and will even provide costumes for the festival. I asked her if dance experience was required, and she reassured me, “Even people who aren’t dancers can enjoy, since it’s not choreograph[ed].”

Tania went on to describe the atmosphere and the costumes, explaining how people from Europe, Asia, and the rest of South America come to participate. “Every year, there is a theme. The music is fast, and costumes are simple with a lot of colors. There’s a big parade with cars and trucks, the big trucks have a king and queen that dance… it’s really beautiful.”

Tania will teach you how to do the proper dance.
Tania will teach you all you need to know.

Still, as in every country, it’s important to be careful.  “You don’t need to bring a lot of money, but put what you have in your bra or underwear.”

Tania in Motion with energy levels high.
Tania in motion with energy levels high.

Carnaval is an experience of a lifetime. One TripAdvisor user states, “It is an awesome opportunity to let go of all your problems and play your innermost character.” So if you’re looking for the right getaway, consider making this trip. Let go, and let live!

For more information on the trip led by Tania, check out her WeTravel trip itinerary, found here.

Tania has been praised for her extensive knowledge in dance: Afro-Brazilian, jazz, ballet, West African, Afro-Cuban, and modern dance forms. Salvador Bahia is a culturally rich land with beautiful beaches and colorful buildings for all walks of life to enjoy. Combine a trip to Brazil with the knowledge of a local and the dance skills to experience Carnaval in its ultimate form.